Case Number: 2015-TR-164933-A-O
Citation Number: A1XN98P
Defendant: Frank Gould
Date: 8 February 2016
I am Not Guilty due to extenuating circumstances caused by the Orange County Sheriff Office (OSCO) failure to do their job and support our community. I was cited for attempting to circumvent a road lane outage caused by a disabled vehicle in order to proceed in an open lane. After learning the severity of the blockage that extended far beyond where I could see or had any knowledge, in hindsight, I would have driven miles around the blockage to avoid the closer route to my destination and avoid the resulting citation.
The insult to me is that once the officer pulled me over, I had to tell him that he should be directing traffic instead of handing out traffic citations because of what they caused by not informing drivers of the impasse. You will note in the evidence I present regarding this neglect of duty clearly shows the OSCO personnel were aware of the event, had ample time to direct traffic safely, and failed to fulfill their commitment to the community.
I do not believe I should pay any traffic violation penalties nor court costs caused by their traffic trap. Please allow me to provide my perspective and decisions based on the traffic situation that day, 22 November 2015, with supporting evidence.
I had been working for a month on a user booklet about a new product for a startup company. So I could view a professionally printed draft as it would be for product release, I decided to print the document at the Office Depot a few miles away on a slow-traffic Sunday, and not a busy work day. Below is a map of my route.
Before I ever take a trip in my car, I always plan my route and destinations, even the most basic trips. Because it was Sunday afternoon, a little after 4PM, I knew the traffic on Lee road is always wide open with no backups or jams. Normally, it would take me 10 minutes to drive from my home, west of I4 off Lee Road, to the Office Depot in Winter Park. This Sunday was different but I had no clues this was the case.
As I got past the Adanson Street traffic light, two lights before the major I4-Lee Road intersection, I started to see that the left lanes were blocked with long lanes of traffic backup. This typically meant there was something wrong in the left I4 East access ramp from Lee Road onto the highway. So, I stayed in the right hand lane to see if there might be a way around the blocked left lanes, and the right lane appeared to be flowing through to the next intersection.
This was when I realized that drivers were circumventing around the left lanes and butting themselves into any opening right as they approached the traffic light. I abhor this behavior and do not attempt this maneuver because it’s cheating to avoid being held up and getting ahead of or delaying those waiting in line. However, in this case, since it was so badly blocked, I decided to go around the whole intersection, south (I4 westbound) to the next exit, Fairbanks, and drive back up Wymore Road to avoid all of the I4 intersection traffic jam (this would have been futile but didn’t know it then).
As I approached the intersection in the I4 access lane, I was in line behind two cars waiting for the oncoming traffic to the same I4 entrance ramp, while we yielded for the oncoming traffic turning left onto I4. Once they had cleared, we had the right-of-way to also accelerate onto I4. This is where I made a wrong decision to fill an open space in the Lee Road right lane to navigate around the immediate lane outage (see map below). Because there were no officers directing traffic, I assumed that safely using the available open road to circumvent the downed vehicle would be permissible.
Illustration 1 (right) – Lee Road/I4 Intersection West Map. This illustration is an attempt to show the traffic and car positions when I made the decision to go around the blocked left lane where a vehicle was out-of-service (red rectangle) along with a repair vehicle (blue rectangle) also blocking the same lane.
Note: This map image is not exact nor to scale.
The other correction in the image is that there are three lanes of traffic under I4 (see picture below right) where the map image right shows only two lanes. Also note the police flashing lights icon on Wymore Road beyond this intersection was now visible from my location, in the Open Lane Position.
Illustration 2 – Lee Road/I4 Intersection West Bound Ramp. This is the same intersection as the map illustration above; however, this view is from the road looking east. This photo was not taken the day of the incident but a few days later.
It was at this point I made the decision to pull into the Open Lane Position, as illustrated, while there was no traffic moving in the intersection. Afterwards, I saw an Orange County Sheriff vehicle pull out of a left lane behind me and flash his blue/red lights. We sat there for several light changes and then approached the Wymore Road intersection where the officer’s car informed me on the vehicle outdoor speaker to pull into the Denny’s parking lot, as in the photo below.
Illustration 3 – Denny’s Restaurant Southwest corner Lee Road and Wymore Road Intersection. This photo shows the No Right Turn sign into Denny’s parking lot. This picture also shows the view down Lee Road where I could then see the major blockage and police flashing lights down the right and left sides of the Lee Road lanes as well as a single vehicle flashing lights located on Wymore Road, visible between the No Right Turn sign and the Denny’s building. This photo was not taken on the day of the incident but a few days later.
I pointed to the No Right Turn sign for the officer to see and he responded over the speaker, “negative.” Then a few seconds later, he informed me again to pull into the parking lot and implied I ignore the No Right Turn sign.
As we waited for the traffic to allow us to move forward, I could see flashing police lights to the right of Lee Road on Wymore Road and that Lee Road was blocked with vehicles stopped all the way down the road along with more flashing police lights on the left and right sides of the road (see map in Conclusion). It was then that I realized there was no possible way of driving down Lee Road to 17-92 (aka North Orlando Avenue) where the Office Depot is located. Had I known this, I would have totally avoided Lee Road and driven Fairbanks Avenue to 17-92 and north to the shopping center where Office Depot is located.
After I parked in the Denny’s parking lot, I could see that the I4 eastbound right lane Exit 88 was blocked back to the Fairbanks curve and vehicles were changing lanes in all directions to circumvent blocked lanes throughout the intersection. I was not the only driver who attempted to avoid the blocked lanes using available open lanes. I could not believe the unusual amount of traffic in this area and had no idea it would be this jammed without any signs or indications about an event that could cause such traffic jams.
When the officer approached my vehicle, I explained why I had circumvented the blocked lane. He replied that I had failed to obey the traffic control device. I told him that I had done so because of the I4-Lee Road intersection jam due to the vehicle outage and asked why there weren’t officers directing traffic away from this intersection to inform drivers that Lee Road was blocked. He didn’t answer my question. I added that this stop should be a warning notice and that I am a resident of this neighborhood, where I was going, and why.
The officer proceeded to issue me a citation and suggested I take the traffic improvement course to avoid penalties and points. I insisted the citation should be a warning (if anything) and the officers should be out there directing traffic instead of handing out citations to local residents innocently going about their business and totally uninformed about the road outages.
The officer had nothing to say. I took the citation and drove back home, where I started investigating this incident to learn about several extraneous factors involved with my citation and the event of which I was unaware.
- In an online search, I learned that the event was an Eatonville ‘Riding Big Car Show’ attracting thousands of participants. Winter Park Police had prepared in advance for the show but OCSO did nothing in preparation.
- This car event started at 2PM and at the time of my citation, 4:14PM, there were still no traffic notices or officers directing traffic. This made me feel traffic was an excuse for citations instead of managing traffic.
- Ten minutes after my traffic citation, WESH posted the following traffic alert indicating the Lee Road exit was closed:
- From the Orange County Sheriff’s Office website: “[Sheriff Jerry L. Demings] believes that, to be totally effective, a law enforcement agency has to form close working partnerships, not only with the citizens it serves, but with its schools, churches, all branches of local government, and the local corporate community. Community Oriented Policing remains one of the cornerstones of his policing philosophy.” Does this NOT include local community traffic communications and directions? Does this mean serving citations?
- From the Orange County Sheriff’s Office website, again: “The Support Services Division commands many of the sections and units, such as Community Relations…which can provide the logistics support vital for agency and community interaction that is so important to a community oriented philosophy.” Does this NOT include local community traffic communications and directions? Does this mean providing citations?
- The next morning after my citation, a friend told me that he was at Home Depot on Lee Road the same day as my citation and when leaving around 4:30PM, traffic was diverted around Lee Road eastbound and only onto I4 local southbound (westbound) direction. This confirmed what I had learned online.
- There were no event advertisements or signs in the Lee Road area warning in advance of the event or current traffic blocks. The picture below is a traffic warning sign that did not display any warnings about the upcoming traffic congestion or detours. This sign is located on Lee Road facing eastbound traffic (towards I4) between Goddard Avenue and Adanson Street (see map in Conclusion section below). Had this been operational and informative, I would have detoured around Lee Road by turning on Adanson Street and using Fairbanks Avenue to 17-92 and up to the Office Depot.
Links corroborating evidence list above:
I am a volunteer for the Lee Road Safe Neighborhood association to publish its newsletter (below) and I had no information about this event nor traffic. Winter Park police had notification and prepared for the event (reference WESH video in link #1 above) but Orange County Sheriff Office did nothing to prepare our neighborhood.
I believe this citation should be rescinded and canceled without any further action. I should not have to pay for court costs because OCSO did not perform its duties for safe traffic performance in our community but instead taxed me with a citation caused by their failures. This document took me two (2) days to create.
Below is a full aerial view of the Lee Road area to identify landmarks referenced in this document.
Also a few days after my citation, I found that in downtown College Park traffic signs had been erected warning of road closure. Below are photos of one of these signs (note: photograph did not capture the sign lettering but was clearly visible in person: EDGE-WATER DR CLOSED, 12-3-15 12PM-10PM). Same road closure signs have been posted on Minnesota Avenue, a two-lane back road street, unlike a major road like Lee Road.